|The Battle of Lepanto|
October is dedicated as the "Month of The Rosary" primarily due to the liturgical feast day of October 7, Our Lady of The Rosary. It is a feast designated by the Church to honour of Our Blessed Mother's intercession at the Battle of Lepanto, which saw Christians forces defeat the Ottoman Turks on October 7, 1571. This victorious day became the feast day of Our Lady of Victory, which later changed to Our Lady of the Rosary. To gain a true appreciation of this feast day, one should have some knowledge of the historical facts of the Battle of Lepanto. Below is a concise summary of the events that led to the victory over the Turks.
The Turkish Ottomans had aspirations for domination of Western Europe. By the latter half of the sixteenth century that Muslim aggression revealed itself with the Ottoman sultan proclaiming jihad or "struggle," a call to "Holy War." Pope Pius V understood the importance and significance of resisting aggressive Turkish expansion. The real battle was a spiritual one, with Christianity in the West (western Europe) at stake. The Ottoman Empire, the seat of Islamic power, looked to control the entire Mediterranean and bring all of Europe within the dar al-Islam or "House of Submission."
To combat this imminent Islamic threat, a "Holy League" force was formed, comprised of Catholic Knights of Papal States, Malta, Italy, Germany, Spain, England, Scotland, Scandinavia, Catholics and freebooters (lawless adventurers), gentlemen adventurers and convicts used to row the galleys. France not officially present as a force, had contributed Knights to the Holy League. Part of the Italian contingent, were the Venetians whose thirst for commerce was abruptly interrupted by the realization that holding on to their business enterprises would necessitate war against Turkish aggression. The Turkish aspiration for Europe was thrust into action in 1565 with an attack in the eastern Mediterranean on the island of Malta. The island was valiantly defended by Christian forces and after four months, the gallant Knights repelled the Turkish invasion, inflicting heavy losses upon the Ottoman forces. Malta was then reinforced with fresh troops from Spain.
With Malta proving to be more difficult than anticipated, the Turks changed their target to Cyprus. The two key points in Cyprus were Nicosia and Famagusta. At Nicosia, the Cyprian force who were out numbered 7 to 1 and after seven weeks of fighting the Cyprian force was reduced to 500 men. The Christian forces surrendered with the expectation that the civilians would be spared and the Christian troops to be enslaved. Instead, the Muslim invaders butchered every Christian they could find, regardless of gender, rank, age including children, 20,000 in total. At Famagusta, the Christian defenders fought for ten months, keeping the Turks at bay. Eventually the Christians, under the Venetian commander Marco Antonio Bragadino agreed to a negotiated settlement. Just as at Nicosia, the Turks deceived the Christians slaughtering all the troops and their commanders, sparing only the civilians and reserving a special torture for Bragadino.
|Map of The Battle of Lepanto|
With the victory of Lepanto, the Ottoman Turks domination of the Mediterranean ended. Pope Pius V, who had commanded the faithful to pray the Rosary for victory was thoroughly convinced that this victory was granted by the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Each year on the same day, this victory was remembered and later became the feast of Our Lady of Victory, eventually changed to Our Lady of The Rosary. The victory at Lepanto, together with increased devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary, eventually let to the entire month of October being dedicated to Our Lady of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII on August 30th, 1884 in his encyclical, Superiore Anno, on the Recitation of the Rosary declared:
We have therefore resolved that in this coming month of October, in which the sacred devotions to Our Virgin Lady of the Rosary are solemnised throughout the Catholic world, all the devotions shall again be observed which were commanded by Us this time last year. We therefore decree and make order that from the 1st of October to the 2nd of November following in all the parish churches [curialibus templis], in all public churches dedicated to the Mother of God, or in such as are appointed by the Ordinary, five decades at least of the Rosary be recited, together with the Litany. If in the morning, the Holy Sacrifice will take place during these prayers; if in the evening, the Blessed Sacrament will be exposed for the adoration of the faithful; after which those present will receive the customary Benediction. We desire that, wherever it be lawful, the local confraternity of the Rosary should make a solemn procession through the streets as a public manifestation of religious devotion. (4)In more recent times, examples of this devotion can be taken from St. Pius (Pio) of Pietrelcina, who used to recite the Rosary everyday, several times a day. Pope Paul VI contributed to the increased devotion of the Rosary with his Apostolic Exhortation, Marialis Cultus. Pope John Paul II, whose marian spirituality permeated his life, stated that the Rosary was his favourite prayer. Such enthusiasm and devotion to our Blessed Mother was revealed throughout his pontificate and captured in a major document, his encyclical Rosarium Virginis Mariae:
The Rosary of the Virgin Mary is a prayer of great significance, destined to bring forth a harvest of holiness. It blends easily into the spiritual journey of the Christian life...it is also necessary to recall that the spiritual life is not limited solely to participation in the liturgy. Christians, while they are called to prayer in common, must also go to their own rooms and pray to their Father in secret (Mt 6:6); indeed, according to the teaching of the Apostle, they must pray without ceasing (1Thes 5:17). The Rosary, in its own particular way, is part of this varied panorama of ‘ceaseless’ prayer... (1, 13)The Battle of Lepanto is a wonderful encouragement for the faithful to pray the Rosary daily. As a further encouragement, our Blessed Mother gave us her Fifteen Promises to Christians who recite the Rosary:
- Whoever shall faithfully serve me by the recitation of the Rosary shall receive signal graces.
- I promise my special protection and the greatest graces to all those who shall recite the Rosary.
- The Rosary shall be a powerful armour against Hell; it will destroy vice, decrease sin and defeat heresies.
- It will cause virtue and good works to flourish; it will obtain for souls the abundant mercy of God; it will withdraw the hearts of men from the love of the world and its vanities and will lift them to the desire of eternal things. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!
- The soul which recommends itself to me by the recitation of the Rosary shall not perish.
- Whoever shall recite the Rosary devoutly, applying himself to the consideration of its sacred Mysteries, shall never be conquered by misfortune. God will not chastise him in His justice; he shall not perish by an unprovided death; if he be just, he shall remain in the grace of God and become worthy of eternal life.
- Whoever shall have a true devotion for the Rosary shall not die without the Sacraments of the Church.
- Those who are faithful to recite the Rosary shall have during their life and their death the light of God and the plentitude of His graces; at the moment of death they shall participate in the merits of the Saints in Paradise.
- I shall deliver from Purgatory those who have been devoted to the Rosary.
- The faith children of the Rosary shall merit a high degree of glory in Heaven.
- You shall obtain all you ask of me by the recitation of the Rosary.
- All those who propagate the Holy Rosary shall be aided by me in their necessities.
- I have obtained from my Divine Son that all the advocates of the Rosary shall have for intercessors the entire celestial court during their life and at the hour of death.
- All who recite the Rosary are my sons, and brothers of my only Son, Jesus Christ.
- Devotion to my Rosary is a great sign of predestination.
(Given to St. Dominic and Blessed Alan)
In the month of October, let us resolve to recite the Rosary faithfully with renewed fervour, each and every day. To do so is to meditate on the life and passion of Jesus, and on the life of Mary and her virtues, and learn from the many Gospel lessons contained within this most efficacious and powerful prayer. For those who have never prayed the Rosary, please visit the Rosary Center's "How To Pray The Rosary" page, where you will find the easy to follow instructions. Please include me in your prayers. Thank you.